Iona Tops Navy in Women's Basketball Opener
Nov. 9, 2012
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- A hot shooting Iona squad connected on nearly 50-percent of its shots from the field for the game and held the Navy women's basketball team to just 22 second-half points as the Gaels posted a 74-64 victory over the Midshipmen Friday at the Hynes Center in New Rochelle, N.Y.
The game was not only the opener of the 2012-13 season for both teams, it also was one of just two games to tip on the first day of the season as early as 11 a.m. EST.
Iona would build a seven-point lead of 26-19 with just under 10 minutes left in the first half, but Navy answered the deficit by going on a 9-0 run to take a 28-26 lead with 7:38 remaining in the half. The score would be tied four times and the lead would change hands on six occasions over the rest of the half. When the horn sounded ending the first 20 minutes of the season, the scoreboard showed Iona holding a 43-42 advantage.
"For the first game of the year," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, "it was intense right from the get-go. We had to keep scoring just to keep up with Iona."
Iona's Damika Martinez and Navy's Kara Pollinger (Jr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) carried much of the offensive burden for their respective teams before the break. Both players were 5-of-10 from the field and each made a trio of three-point shots in the half. Martinez would sink one of her two free throw attempts in the half to edge Pollinger for the scoring lead by one point, 14-13.
Both offenses as a whole were rolling in the first half. Iona converted on 51.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the frame and Navy sank 48.5 percent of its shots from the field. The 43 points scored by the Gaels was just two points away from the most a Navy team has allowed an opponent to score in the opening 20 minutes of a game under Pemper, while the 42 points tallied by the Mids was one point shy of tying for the most Navy has scored in the first half of a game for the fifth-year coach.
Despite the flurry of play by the offenses, the two teams combined for just seven first-half turnovers with Navy accounting for just one of those miscues.
Iona would continue with its torrid pace early in the second half. The Gaels accounted for eight of the first-10 points scored in the half to take a 51-44 lead. After a Navy field goal, Iona went on another 7-2 run to build a 58-48 lead at the midpoint of the second half. Iona's lead soon grew to as many as 14 points at 67-53 and it maintained a double-digit cushion until there were just two minutes left on the clock.
"We just couldn't keep scoring with them," said Pemper of the second half. "Iona really executed well. They are athletic and are tough to guard, especially in a man defense. We had to play a zone to try and slow things down, but it is hard to defend against them with just one defense. They also made some really tough shots and we missed some easy ones."
After making 16-of-33 shots from the field and 5-of-10 attempts from outside of the three-point line in the first half, Navy's production slowed down in the second half. The Mids were 5-of-31 (16.1%) from the floor overall, including just 2-of-9 (22.2%) from beyond the three-point arc, after halftime.
Iona's offense cooled off slightly after intermission as it made 10-of-23 (43.5%) shots from the field in the second half after making 17-of-33 attempts in the first half. The Gaels also held a 25-19 edge on the glass after halftime.
Navy, which ranked second in the NCAA in 2011 for the fewest number of personal fouls committed per game and first in the country in that category in 2012, was whistled for 17 fouls on Friday. That was still below the 19 Iona was called for, which led to Navy attempting 25 free throws to Iona's 21. However, the Mids sank just 15 (60.0%) of their shots from the charity stripe while the Gaels made 13 (61.9%) of their free throw attempts.
"We did take good care of the ball (six turnovers for the game), but we have to make our shots from the field and from the free throw line when we have that opportunity," said Pemper. "We also can communicate better on the defensive end than we did today."
Pollinger would miss all three of her second-half three-point attempts and make just one of her seven second-half shots. She would finish the game with a Navy-high 17 points. Ranking second in scoring on the Navy team was M.L. Morrison (Jr., Southlake, Texas), who contributed a career-high 12 points in 20 minutes of playing time.
"Kara played with a lot of confidence," said Pemper. "She also didn't turn the ball over at all. And M.L was a nice spark off the bench for us."
Martinez carried her hot shooting over into the second half. She connected on five of her seven field goal attempts on her way to scoring 12 points in the half and 26 in all for the game. Joining her with a strong final 20 minutes of play was teammate Aleesha Powell, who scored 10 of her 14 points after halftime.
Martinez earned Second-Team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honors in 2012 and was tabbed as the league's rookie of the year last year before being named to the conference's pre-season first team this year. Meanwhile, Powell appeared on the conference's all-rookie team last season and was on the pre-season all-league third team this fall.
"Iona is really quick and athletic," said Pemper. "They were explosive when going to the basket, and that led to some of our fouling. Going into the game we knew they could score, but I don't think the tempo ever really got away from us."
Navy will remain in the Empire State through the weekend as the Mids will play at Stony Brook Sunday at 6:30 p.m.